By Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO
Congratulations to everyone on such a terrific start to the school year! We’ve opened 17 new schools and our network is now 200 schools strong, educating nearly 80,000 KIPPsters across the country. To put those numbers in perspective, consider that:
- In 2010, the KIPP network consisted of 99 schools educating 28,000 students.
- KIPP is now larger than the city districts of Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., or Boston. By 2020, we expect to be among the 25 largest school districts in the nation (just shy of Philadelphia) and continuing to grow.
Over the past few weeks there’s been a spirited discussion around calls for a moratorium on opening new charter schools. In Massachusetts, for example, there is a statewide referendum on whether to lift the state’s cap on new charter schools. Unless it is lifted, we cannot open a high school in Boston—even though the data is clear that KIPPsters who go on to KIPP high schools are better-prepared for college—nor can we enroll more students in other parts of Boston or the state.
I will write more about this in future updates. For now, I want to share a little bit about four of our newest KIPP schools, to remind us that every school we open is meeting tremendous needs. These schools are part of a broader movement for justice, a movement to ensure that every child—regardless of where they grow up in our country—has access to an excellent education.
KIPP Comienza Community Prep Upper School (Huntington Park, CA)
Back in March, we shared a blog post by KIPP Comienza Upper School founding school leader D’Anza Smith-Rodriguez. Six months later, KIPP Comienza—one of the highest-ranked elementary schools not just in Los Angeles, but in the entire state of California—has expanded to fifth grade. Families are excited to have a neighborhood middle school option with the same excellence and college-prep focus.
The school is already deepening close ties in the community of Maywood. “Community is right there in the name of our school,” D’Anza says. Parents have pitched in with everything from sorting books to assembling furniture. One student’s father is even helping build the raised beds for the school garden, where students can get their hands dirty and apply their new science knowledge!
KIPP Change Academy (Charlotte, NC)
KIPP Change Academy is Charlotte’s first KIPP elementary school, and its students will feed into our middle school right down the road. In Charlotte’s underserved areas, only one in three third-graders reads on grade level. So even though KIPP’s two schools are located in East Charlotte, they draw students and families from all over town who are eager for a college-prep education.
Inspired by KIPP Excelencia Community Prep—whose story we featured on this blog last year—KIPP Change is starting with two grades: Kindergarten and fourth grade. Students are building leadership skills early on, starting with a schoolwide buddy system. This year’s fourth graders are already mentoring the kindergarteners, and in turn will be mentored by eighth graders from the middle school. “We’re busting the myth that you have to be an adult to effect meaningful change,” founding school leader Malcolm Brooks says.
KIPP One Primary (Chicago, IL)
Although there have been KIPP schools on the west side of Chicago for several years, KIPP One Primary is our first elementary school in the neighborhood of West Humboldt Park. The school shares a campus with KIPP One Academy middle school, also opening this fall. As we highlighted in a blog post last fall, the two schools were approved in a unanimous school board vote with dozens of parent supporters in the audience.
KIPP One Primary’s teaching staff comes from all over the city, and are already working together as a close-knit team. That includes one very special KIPPster: Michallé Fain, a member of KIPP Chicago’s founding fifth grade class, graduated from Marquette University and is now a Kindergarten teacher at KIPP One Primary. “She’s literally the embodiment of what we do here,” says founding school leader Rashid Bell.
KIPP Climb Academy (Houston, TX)
KIPP Climb Academy’s founding school leader, Lindsey Smith, shared her hopes for the elementary school in a blog post last November. Now, the thriving community hub she described is coming to life! With a new middle school, KIPP Prime College Prep, also opening this fall in the same building, KIPP is ensuring that more students in southeast Houston can get a great education from Kindergarten through eighth grade.
Before school started, there was a meet-and-greet with families and teachers. Families entered the meeting nervous and left smiling in relief at how welcoming the school was! Up next is a KaBOOM! playground build, which students and parents will design together. In the meantime, the founding Kindergarten students are already learning the school’s values, encouraging their teammates to persist through challenges like opening their milk cartons at lunch. “Students keep asking me, ‘When are we climbing the mountain to college?’” says Lindsey. “I tell them, you already are!”
Congratulations to D’Anza, Malcolm, Rashid, Lindsey, and all the other school leaders embarking on their founding school years!
I’ll let Lindsey Smith have the last word: “Now that we’re at 200 schools, it’s such an honor to join everyone who’s come before us. I’m so excited to tell our students about our thousands of KIPP cousins across the country, and how—while we’re building a community here—we have a KIPP community all around us paving the way.”